What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

September 08, 2006

The Hitch is caught with his Pantsdown

Christopher Hitchens is a fantastic polemicist. Today his polemic is just fantasy. The first sentence of his Comment Is Free article for thegrauniad today, Losing the faith, tells us:
In early 1999, Paddy Ashdown, then the leader of Britain's Liberal Democratic party (and since then, as Lord Ashdown, Europe's envoy in Bosnia), was found with a woman not his wife and forced to resign his post.
Initially, I thought this was satire, that Hitch was hinting at an 'affair' between Paddy and Tony Blair. But no. Turns out neither he nor thegrauniad could be arsed to check their facts. (Paddy's affair was, of course, exposed by The Sun before the 1992 general election. He voluntarily retired as party leader a mere seven years later.)

I know thegrauniad is desperate to be part of the phenomenon called blogging - that's 'a phenomena' to a Grauniad sub-editor, naturally - but, really, I expect better from the dead tree press. They could at least try Wikipedia.

I wouldn't normally deign to mention such trifles as factual accuracy. But given that Hitch then proceeded to repeat parts of my post from Wednesday I feel a sense of grievance, like some virtual Amundsen to his Scott.

PS: by 5.00 pm someone at thegrauniad had noticed, and corrected the first sentence.


Liberal Legend said...

They should publish an apology to Paddy before m'learned friends issue the writ.

The media has been poor at checking up on stories. The Times claiming that there had been a cover up over Charles Kennedy's drinking even though there had been a song in the Liberator Song Book for years referring to it(couldn't be arsed to check their facts).

Shoddy indeed.

Alex Wilcock said...


And Millennium thought people ripped him off…!

Handy of them to highlight the line where he starts quoting you word-for-word.

Stephen Tall said...

LibLeg - I guess it's the pressure of deadlines in a 24x7 media world. But some elementary fact-checking wouldn't come amiss. In fairness, the error was soon corrected.

Alex - it has at least brought me a load of new readers trying to find out what it was Hitch said before thegrauniad woke up to its inadvertant libel.

Gregg said...

I can only assume Hitchens' residence in America has left unfamiliar with recent British political history. I was 13 when the "Paddy Pantsdown" scandal happend. I vividly remember the refrain from the school corridor:
"We're neither left wing nor right wing, but somewhere in between. I touched her neither on the left leg nor on the right leg, but..."

Mr Eugenides said...

Gregg: As 13 year-olds, you had a rhyme about Paddy Ashdown?

I'm not sure whether to be impressed or appalled...